Finding the Christmas spirit
TEXT: LISA MARIA BERG | PHOTOS © TEEMU HUJANEN
We all know it: it sneaks up on you when having that first mince pie, or when you hear your favourite Christmas song on the radio. With an atmospheric venue and handcrafted elves, Tyynelän Tontut takes the Christmas spirit to the next level.
In an idyllic Finnish courtyard, next to the Gulf of Bothnia, Eija Porkola has built a tiny piece of Winter Wonderland. “The buildings are from the 16th and 17th centuries. It makes for a very special place. It is an experience in itself just being here,” says visitor manager Suvi Porkola about the back story of this place that cannot be described as anything other than the very definition of cosy. With several small cottages in wood, one of them being an old barn, it makes for a very inviting, and superbly Christmassy, place – one that just so happens to also be perfect for everything from a quiet cup of coffee to an intimate wedding bash.
They all have a name
Santa’s little helpers take different shapes and have different names all over the world: Swedes call them ‘tomtenisse’, in Norway they go by the simple name of ‘nisse’, and in Finland, they are known as ‘tonttu’. In Tyynelän Tonut, they thrive.
Eija makes every single tonttu by hand. “No tonttu is the same. They all look different, and when a tonttu leaves Tyynelän it is always given a name before it heads out into the world. We believe it is the tonttu that chooses its owner, not the other way around,” says Suvi. No wonder that children find this place truly magical.
The little elf community of Tyynelän Tontut has so much Christmas spirit in it that the President of Finland’s wife had to take a trip up and award them personally. “We have the diploma for outstanding craftsmanship framed on the wall. I think today, people want to move away from a glossy Christmas made out of plastic. It means a lot to have someone recognise what we do here,” explains Suvi. Eija previously traded in antiques and, spread across the 15 little buildings, one can find old toys, clothes and other curious artefacts. It makes you wonder: could this be precisely what it is like in Santa’s village?